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July 12, 2007

More commutation converage and commentary

NPR this morning has this coverage of yesterday's JHouse udiciary Committee hearing on Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence (basics here).  In addition, writing in the Detroit Free Press, the attorney general of the state of Michigan, has this strong commentary entitled "Bush wrong to commute Libby's sentence: Action undermines need for truth."  Here are excerpts:

Ultimately, no one was ever convicted of divulging Plame's name to the press, so it is legitimate to ask whether Libby's perjury matters. The same question could be posed regarding President Clinton's lying under oath about engaging in "sexual relations" with Monica Lewinsky.  Or, more to the point, do these "lies" matter?

I answer most assuredly yes. I spent years as a homicide prosecutor in a big city, Detroit, where each and every case presented the opportunity for perjury by witnesses, and perjury that would matter, perjury that was literally a matter of life and death.

Clinton's supporters and the supporters of Libby share a common class-based myopia: Neither one can see what sort of damage the tolerance of perjury does to the thousands of criminal prosecutions that happen every year.  In essence, the defenders of Clinton and Libby say that if you lie during the course of a white-collar prosecution, it is somehow permissible. 

Where does that leave all the witnesses to violent crime who oftentimes are faced with the very real dilemma that truthful testimony about a criminal offense will subject them to the very real possibility of retribution?  Are we to tell those who witness violent crime, and thus face very real risks of retribution, that they must tell the truth, while those who are witnesses to white collar crimes are free to fudge and prevaricate?

I applauded when Martha Stewart was sentenced to prison for lying under oath about receiving inside stock information.  I felt that justice was done when rapper Lil' Kim was sentenced to almost a year in prison for lying under oath about a shooting.  Is it because I take a perverse pleasure in people going to prison?  No.

Any time our criminal justice system ensures that the truth-telling function of our system is alive and viable, it is a cause for celebration for all citizens.  Telling the truth under oath can be uncomfortable; it can be embarrassing and lead to problems for one's friends and associates, but fudging or protecting one's friends or family does not and cannot commute the necessity for truth-telling.

Simply put, our system of justice depends on truth-telling.  Without that rigor, without that pressure, without that compunction to tell the truth, our system of justice will die. As a nation, we must demand that our public officials honor that pact.  I have no doubts that Libby is basically a good man.  At the same time, a jury of his peers has affirmed his guilt for lying under oath.

If truth is a pillar of our system of justice, then not telling the truth dramatically damages the structural support of that same system of justice.  Lying under oath deserves to be punished. And President Bush was wrong to commute Lewis Libby's sentence.

July 12, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink

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» The Ghosts That Bush Left Behind from StandDown Texas Project
The commentary on President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence compared with his record in Texas capital cases continues. That's the title of a post by Mary Mapes at Huffington Post. LINKDown here, during the Bush years, the details [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 12, 2007 11:29:25 AM

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